[TUHS] Happy birthday, John Backus!

Lawrence Stewart stewart at serissa.com
Tue Dec 4 09:00:38 AEST 2018

I’ve told this story before, but not here, I think.

Brian Reid talked me into teaching a programming language survey course at Stanford around 1983.  There were programming assignments in Pascal, LISP, APL, and Snobol.

Being young and too clever, I rewrote the Snobol assignment to be matching lists of crossword puzzle solution words for across and down into a grid representing the board (X’s and O’s).

I seriously underestimated how hard this would be for new programmers, so my own solution turned out to be the second fastest.

The fastest Snobol solution was a thing that if you held it out at arms length, you would swear it was FORTRAN.


> On 2018, Dec 3, at 5:24 PM, Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 12/3/18, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
>> Hrrumft.    You can write bad code is *any* language.   See the annual
>> obscure C prize.
> Someone once said that a good Fortran programmer can write Fortran in
> any programming language.
> -Paul W.

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